Table of Contents Yoseba Annual 25
1. Nuclear power plants and the yoseba
Special feature 1: Nuclear power plants and the yoseba
Tainted Soil, Crushed Community: The Radiation Tragedy at
Nagadoro hamlet, Iitate village, Soma county, Fukushima prefecture
The village of Iitate, in north-eastern Fukushima prefecture,
was severely contaminated by radiation from the meltdown at the
Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the earthquake
and tsunami of March 11, 2011, despite being located outside
the 30 kilometer evacuation zone set up by the government, and
was later declared a "planned evacuation zone." Iitate
consists of 20 tiny hamlets, and the level of radiation varies
greatly between one hamlet and another. This paper focuses on
the most severely irradiated hamlet in the village: Nagadoro.
Using fieldwork spread over a year, I investigate how the residents
have been enduring life under evacuation and their feelings and
attitudes towards the authorities. The official policy of the
village is to demand rapid decontamination of the village so
that people can resume living and working there. But in Nagadoro,
where the level of radiation is well over 50 millisieverts a
year, a growing number of people are saying that an early return
is impossible, preferring to demand a new place to live until
the time, if ever, when the hamlet again becomes inhabitable.
While the village is battling with the prefectural and national
governments, we are now starting to see another battle: between
the hamlets and the village.
The accident at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, compels us to rethink the nature of the proletarian workers' movement. The movement has failed to address the issue of nuclear workers, who have been used and then discarded as part of national policy, and worse still, has failed to use its historical awareness of the cycle of recruiting, exploiting and then discarding proletarian workers to plan any movement to forge bonds with the rural regions that are both the siting places for nuclear power plants and sources of labour as well. A proletarian movement confined to the city is unthinkable in the first place, and meetings with workers in Fukushima reveal many concrete points of contact between them and the day labourers of San'ya and other yoseba. The author has also become acutely aware of how little is known about working conditions in the regions where nuclear plants are sited. However, recently-formed connections with people in Fukushima point the way to putting right these failings and launching a new movement. This paper is a call to action, directed at the movement and sympathetic researchers.
The struggle of people called 'radioactive meat': workers
for nuclear plant sub-contractors in France
In France, eagerness to cut the running costs of nuclear power plants led to a deliberate reliance on sub-contracted labour from 1988 onwards. In the next five years, the share of plant maintenance work allocated to sub-contractors rose from 20% to 80%. The risk of radiation to sub-contracted workers also rose sharply. This paper seeks to describe the social profile of these sub-contracted plant workers, known in France as 'nuclear nomads' or 'radioactive meat.' It also analyses the statements and activities of a citizens' movement founded by these workers in order to claim their right to health and safety.
Stuck between disaster and nostalgia: Dialogue between present
and former residents of Fukushima
This paper documents a conversation between the author, a former resident of Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture, and a friend who was head of the PTA at the local elementary school. The latter talks about the social atmosphere in Koriyama, where it has become taboo to talk about radiation; about schools wavering indecisively as they face the threat of radiation damage; about the difficulties and dangers of decontamination work; and about the sense of despair that sometimes overcomes people.
Poverty as a disaster: With reference to Naomi Klein's 'Shock
In her 2008 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein argues that the rapid rise to global dominance of the neo-liberal order was propelled by the opportunistic use of wars and natural disasters to propagate neo-liberalism among people whose foundation of solidarity had been destroyed and who were too confused and terrified by events around them to mount effective resistance. This paper asks how applicable Klein's theory is to Japan following the March 11 disasters. The Japanese government's attempt to limit the feeling of shock by concealing vital information does not seem to fit very well with the Shock Doctrine. On the other hand, the way the authorities have washed their hands of responsibility for widening economic inequality and poverty do show clear signs that the Doctrine is being applied in Japan too.
From the village to the dark sea: A reading of Kainuma Hiroshi's
Kainuma Hiroshi's book Fukushima-ron (Fukushima Theory) was published in a great hurry, just three months after the March meltdowns, and attracted a lot of attention. Kainuma shows how, throughout the post-war years, the rural communities of Fukushima sought to escape from poverty by subordinating themselves to central government. After reviewing the book, this paper argues that Fukushima's history and present circumstances should be grasped in relation to proletarian labour markets.
Special Feature 2: Expositions and urban riots
From Nagamachi to Kamagasaki: Expositions, rice riots and
discriminated outcast settlements
2011 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the First Kamagasaki Riot. Mention of that reminded the author that about another fifty years before that, the Osaka entertainment district of Shin-Sekai (New World) had been launched, following the Fifth National Exposition (1903) with its notorious Jinrui-kan, a racist display of supposedly primitive people. This report looks at the development of the Nagamachi slum district from the Meiji era onwards, focusing on its role in the Fifth Exposition and the rice riots that occurred around the same time. I also show the close link between Nagamachi and the history of discrimination against the Burakumin, Japan's outcast minority.
Lessons from rice riots and the first Kamagasaki riot
Neither the rice riots around the turn of the 20th century, nor the first Kamagasaki riot of 1961, were organized or based on any ideological principle. Both were spontaneous uprisings by people deprived of their dignity and forced into a lifestyle that was a daily struggle for survival. Both were met by a security crackdown rather than any attempt to deal with the poverty that was the root cause of the disturbances. Things have not changed much to this day. Even now the city government of Osaka and the Nishinari ward police force do their best to repress social movements in Kamagasaki just like their ancestors before them.
The rich-poor war and the fear of the rich: Some thoughts
on "expositions and riots"
2011 marked the centenary of the guilty verdicts and death sentences that ended the 'High Treason Incident' (Taigyaku Jiken), an alleged plot to assassinate the Meiji emperor. This paper seeks to tease out the significance of the incident by reference to several writings of the time, including an essay on the Osaka Exposition by the famous anarchist thinker Kotoku Shusui (one of the twelve alleged plotters executed in 1911), Yokoyama Gennosuke's reportage on the Osaka match factory, and Katayama Sen's writings about poverty.
Submerged deep in the Deep South: On Sakai Takashi's Tsutenkaku:
A New Developmental History of Japanese Capitalism
Freight transportation and irregular workers: shedding light
on the link between seasonal migrant labour and street recruitment/day
This paper looks at working conditions during the early post-war period at Nippon Express (Nippon Tsuun), which was the biggest freight company in Japan at the time, with special reference to irregular workers. The paper uses internal company research materials to investigate how the company went about securing seasonal temporary workers. The research leads us to the poverty of rural villages and the resulting imperative to seek wage labour, and to the long-standing institution of the oyakata - paternalistic recruiters who would supply day labourers to employers. These phenomena were the inevitable outcome of government policy from the 1960s, which promoted the mechanization of primary industries and a shift to ever bigger units of land, capital and management. Today we face the task of reversing this mistaken path of modernization that has left Japan's villages depopulated and impoverished - a task made still more urgent by the 3/11 disasters. People like Miyagi prefecture governor Murai Yoshihiro speak of restoring the disaster-ravaged Tohoku region in terms that suggest they are advocating another round of the same modernization policy that impoverished the region in the first place. Such voices must be resisted.
A non-singing poet, or a singing activist? On the poetry and
action and Funamoto Shuji
This paper looks back over the life of yoseba activist and poet Funamoto Shuji. It argues that for Funamoto, writing poetry was also a form of action, being a way to put into words the realities of life for casual labourers in the slums - realities that could not be expressed in more conventional language.